Before we get to all the game time action, of which there was plenty, we must address one of my favorite holidays, Halloween. This Wednesday night young kids will flood the streets delirious by the thought of gathering a sack load of candy; the equivalent of children's gold. As we head out to celebrate with friends and family, remember that many of these young people aren't always paying attention to the traffic around them. Please do your part to keep our children safe by slowing down and looking out for all those little ghouls and goblins. If nothing else, take the time to admire all the great costumes and enjoy a safe holiday.
Tampa Bay 36, Minnesota 17
Right before our eyes Tampa Bay is developing into a very balanced offense. Doug Martin kicked off week eight rushing for 135 yards and one touchdown while catching three passes for 79 yards adding a second touchdown through the air. On countless runs Martin did an excellent job making the first man miss while pilling up yards after contact. It appears TB got the memo as LeGarrette Blount is officially in the rear view mirror, even on the goal line.
Over the years there has been a recurring trend of quarterbacks breaking out in the middle of their fourth season (last year is was Matt Ryan finishing fifth in fantasy scoring in weeks 8-16). Josh Freeman looks to be the 2012 candidate after scoring 28, 22 and 25 points over the past three weeks. Two weeks ago, almost by default, I picked up Freeman as a bye week filler, but he seems to have earned a spot on my roster as a blossoming low end QB1. Most encouraging is seeing the Bucs continue to throw the football despite a commanding lead. Pleasant surprise.
Tampa Bay has officially entered the conversation for most prolific tandem of wide receivers in the NFL. This week it was Mike Williams catching six passes for 68 yards and a touchdown. Williams does an excellent job "h igh pointing" the football making him a preferred target in the red zone. After a sophomore slump, Williams is once again blossoming into a solid fantasy player now impossible to sit. Great draft pick for those of you who had the foresight.
The Bucs offensive line deserves a ton of credit adding confidence to owners of Martin and Freeman.
What the hell is going on in Minnesota? They started the game perfectly working the ball to Percy Harvin (90 yards one touchdown) and continuing to run Adrian Peterson (123 yards and one touchdown). Falling behind in the mid second quarter they lost their mind and converted into a vertical passing attack.
I recognize much of the blame goes to Christian Ponder for telegraphing his throws and failing to read through his progression. On a number of plays Kyle Rudolph (two targets) is seen wide open underneath as Ponder chooses to throw deep passes into tight coverage towards Jerome Simpson (9 targets) and Michael Jenkins (7 targets). Credit should also be given the Bucs for putting Ponder under constant duress throughout this game. However, Ponder's regression is getting scary for Rudolph owners. Even scarier is the coaching staff's inability to adjust their play calling. Up next is the stiff Seattle secondary at the toughest road stadium in the NFL.
Peterson is proof that modern medicine has progressed leaps and bounds over the past five years. Being held down for much of the game, AP finally broke loose showing us he still has a fifth gear ripping through the Bucs defense en route for 123 yards highlighted by a 64 yard touchdown run.
Jared Allen and BJ Penn had themselves a scuffle. Watching these two large men fight reminded me of a bull elephant taking on a lion. In this case the lion may have won the battle but the other elephants showed up and won the war.
Carolina 22, Chicago 23
Despite passing for 314 yards, Cam Newton has looked awful throwing the football, wildly missing his underneath receivers and unable to read the coverage. Also killing Newton owners was a fumble at the one yard line eventually recovered by Louis Murphy. Newton's lone upside in the passing game is chucking the ball deep allowing playmaker Steve Smith to utilize his athleticism to come down with the ball. Still able to make plays with his feet, Newton remains a low end QB1. But sporadic production could leave us shaking our heads in the fantasy postseason.
Newton's faults have also killed the fantasy value of tight end Greg Olsen. Averaging three fantasy points per game over the past three weeks, it appears Olsen has become a mid TE2 amidst a floundering Carolina passing game.
All week long the Panthers have been telling us they are converting to a one-back system on the shoulders of Jonathan Stewart. Carrying the rock 17 times, J-Stew struggled to find running room against the collapsing Chicago defense ending the day at 2.5 yards per carry. DeAngelo Williams was given an expanded role in the second half taking 11 carries for 33 yards. With the Panthers new game plan, and the beatable Redskins rush defense next on the schedule, Stewart could approach mid RB2 status with another 17 touches.
Chicago seemed unprepared for this game, perhaps overlooking the under-matched Carolina team at home in Soldier Field. But the recent firing of Panthers GM Marty Hurney must have caught the attention of the Panthers defense because they played as if their jobs depended on this game. Throughout the contest Carolina applied constant pressure on Bears quarterback Jay Cutler. Easily flustered, Cutler was seen pouting after being hit or following a Bears penalty. His fragile mind makes him unsuitable for fantasy consideration.
After 46 quick yards from Matt Forte in Chicago's first two possessions, including a 13-yard scamper into the end zone, Carolina put the clamps on the Bears rusher holding Forte to 24 yards the remainder of the game. I suspect this performance is more of a fluke than a trend, for both the Carolina run defense and Forte.
This game proved once again that no Bears wide receiver, outside of Brandon Marshall, can be trusted.
San Diego 6, Cleveland 7
In a game plagued by heavy rain, offensive production was at a premium. A game of this nature is generally limited to underneath passing and rushing the football. That was the case as San Diego running back Ryan Mathews carried the load with 24 rushes totaling 94 yards. Mathews did manage to put the ball on the turf, a scary sight considering his recent fumbling issues. Rest easy Mathews owners, as he was immediately inserted back into the lineup on the team's next possession.
As the score would indicate, the weather severely hindered Philip Rivers who managed just 154 passing yards. Also inhibiting Rivers was Robert Meachem dropping what would have been a wide open catch-and-run for a long touchdown. Meachem has been a serious disappointment after being lauded all offseason as the new number one wide receiver in the Chargers once high-powered passing attack. Returning home to the comfy confines of Qualcomm Stadium to face the Chiefs has Rivers pegged as a low end QB1.
Equaling Mathews 24 carries was Browns running back Trent Richardson. Fantasy owners will be ecstatic to learn the rib injury causing so much concern during the week did not inhibit the rookie ball carrier as he had 122 rushing yards capped off by a 26-yard touchdown run. He should be locked into your lineup as an RB1 facing the suddenly porous Ravens rush defense.
As stated above, the torrential downpour severely limited the production of all wide receivers including breakout candidate Josh Gordon. Gordon would lead the team with three receptions for 46 yards and is now slotted in as a solid WR3.
Seattle 24, Detroit 28
Seattle's offense played extremely well in this game as rookie Russell Wilson managed 236 passing yards and two touchdowns. The rookie signal caller made a point to get Sydney Rice involved with eight targets including an 18-yard touchdown strike in the early second quarter. Seattle will remain a team predicated on good defense and a solid rushing attack making it impossible to trust any member of the Seahawks passing game on a weekly basis.
This game was proof once that Calvin Johnson can't run a route without three defenders tracking him at all times. Even with the added attention, Johnson was targeted eight times including an easy touchdown while running wide open in the back of the end zone, but somehow managed to drop the ball. Johnson revealed to the media during his postgame interview that his troublesome knee continues to give him discomfort. And the curse continues.
This game is proof that the Seahawks big, physical cornerbacks will struggle with smaller, speedy wide receivers. Titus Young had his best game of the season with nine receptions, 100 yards and two touchdowns. With Burleson now done for the season, Young's increase in targets now has him penciled in as a mid WR3 and climbing.
Matthew Stafford did a much better job moving the football around while connecting with Ryan Broyles (three catches, 37 yards, one touchdown) and Brandon Pettigrew (seven catches, 74 yards). Although neither Broyles nor Pettigrew are every week starters, both are certainly on the rise.
Mikel Leshoure was clearly hobbled by an injury the Lions are calling a "calf cramp." Leshoure tried to reenter the game only to be seen limping after one carry. In his place stepped Joique Bell touching the ball 11 times for 58 yards but finding little running room inside the staunch Seattle rush defense. Bell will most certainly be a player of interest as we prepare for week nine's free agency, depending on Leshoure's practice status. Also worth monitoring is the activation of Kevin Smith.
Jacksonville 15, Green Bay 24
Blaine Gabbert is puzzling. He's the cowardly lion with plenty of arm talent showing flashes of brilliance in this game as displayed by his 303 passing yards, one touchdown and zero...